' A world in volcanic turmoil on display orbiting Jupiter ' : Sharp cliffs, mountain peaks, lakes of lava and even a volcanic plume - all were captured in snapshots taken by a NASA spacecraft as it swooped past Io, one of Jupiter's largest moons and the most volcanically active world in our solar system.

The spacecraft, the Juno orbiter, made its closest flyby yet over Io's turbulent landscape.

'' I was in awe,'' said Scott Bolton, a physicist at the Southwest Research Institute and principal investigator of the Juno mission. Dr. Bolton noted how '' incredibly colorful '' Io is - tinted in orangy browns and yellow by sulfur and flowing lava.

Studying these features can help scientists figure out what drives Io's volcanoes, some of which shoot lava dozens of miles into space, and confirm that this activity comes from an ocean of magma hidden beneath the moon's crust.

Analyzing the volcanoes may eventually show how Jupiter influences the eruptions, which could be a clue to the formation of the gas giant and its satellites.

The Juno spacecraft, designed to study the origin and evolution of Jupiter, arrived at the planet in 2016. NASA extended the mission in 2021, and the orbiter has since captured photos of the Jovian moons Ganymede and Europa, in addition to Io, its most recent target.

It's not the first time a NASA spacecraft has flown by Io. In 1979, Voyager 1 discovered that Io was volcanically active. Two decades later, NASA's Galileo mission sent back what Dr. Bolton calls  ''postage stamps'' or close-ups of specific features on Io's surface.

Juno conducted a number of more distant observations of Io before the flyby on Dec-30 brought the spacecraft within 932 miles [1,500 kilometers] of the moon. 

The images captured during this visit were made with an instrument called JunoCam in visible wavelengths and are some of the highest-resolution views ever of Io's global structure.

Another flyby is set for Feb 3. [Katrina Miller]


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